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4.4 out of 5 stars31
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 17 January 2012
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Charlton brings to life a period of English history in the most vivid way. You are confronted with all the noise, smells and the sights of pre-industrial Britain, along with the stark realities of a brutal class based justice system and a non-existent welfare system. But along with the squalor of Gaols and Prison Hulks, Charlton effortlessly combines a magical description of the passage of life for families held together by bonds of loyalty and love, with images of the beautiful, bleak, and often harsh Northumbrian countryside. It is all in there, drinking, sex, fights, whores, thieves, romance, and lots and lots of slime, filth and animal waste. I recommend it heartily.
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on 7 July 2014
First in a promising series of historical novels, this is the true story of Karen's notorious ancestor, Jamie Charlton, accused of robbery in the 19th Century assizes, and sentenced to death. It has a well contrived plot, sensitive characterisation, and a neatly crafted ending.

The family is devastated, and the community divided. William is torn between loyalty to his brother, and a consuming passion for Jamie's beautiful wife, Cilla. The many threads are skilfully interwoven. We know the story ends with Jamie's deportation to New South Wales, and yet the skill of the author is such that the reader is kept on tenterhooks throughout. Did Jamie steal the money or didn't he - and what is the significance of the splendid golden eagle so loved by Jamie's son Jack?

Easy to read and brim-full with suspense, the book encapsulates this bloody period of English history with sensitivity and charm, and is highly recommended.
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on 8 July 2014
I don't usually read historical fiction, but this novel is based on a true and notorious crime so probably falls into its own category! However, I am sure the author used her artistic licence to spice the facts up a bit, because this novel is certainly spicy ...
I enjoyed the local language and the no-holds barred way the author describes the lives of her characters, sometimes in shocking detail. The wonderful descriptive passages in no way detract from the plot, which is compelling.
The opening scenes are fabulous - I love the way the reader gets a 'bird's eye view' of the characters in their habitat, and then it's almost if the eagle’s eye focuses in on the detail, enticing the reader in. The use of the eagle as a metaphor is brilliant. A gripping and colourful first novel, definitely not for children!
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on 7 December 2011
This book is the first in a new series. Set in Northumberland in the early 1800s this is a fictionalised account of the a crime that rocked the community and the author's ancestors. When £1157 in rent money is stolen from Kirkley Hall the owner calls in officers from Bow Street magistrates court in London to investigate. While many think the owner's steward Michael Aynsley is to blame, suspicion focuses on poor farm labourer James Charlton. His behaviour after the theft only serves to further implicate him and the Charlton family, including brother William, begin a battle to save Jamie from the gallows and to keep his young family from the poor house. In his own way Will is also fighting for his freedom, trying to get away from the family farm and a past that has for too long affected his present. The magnificent golden eagle that has been seen over the area is a "lucky" bird, but there are parallels between the fate of the bird and Jamie.

This book is set in rural Northumberland, and although the reader is treated to some description of the life and homes of the upper classes much of the tale is set on the farms, in workers cottages and in the gaol. It is a bleak existence, especially in winter, and the author makes it easy to appreciate how difficult life must have been for the families in the novel. While the greater issues of the time touch on the story it really deals with telling the story of a family. The charming William is considered a bit of a ladies man but the reader sees more to him. He is devoted to his family but needs to cut the apron strings. I loved him, and the way he changed during the book. I also felt for Jamie's wife Cilla who, in common with many of her peers, was a hard toiling mother and worker.

I appreciated the writing style, which was descriptive without being too wordy, and which included enough local dialect to help me hear the characters without using using anything too obscure and confusing. Once I had chance to sit down and get into this book I didn't want to put it down again. The narrative is nice and linear, and easy to follow, seeing the family going through highs and lows. I thought that the recurring presence of the eagle made for a touching sub-plot interwoven with the main story.

I really enjoyed this book, a historical fiction that values the smaller details. I put it down wondering what would happen next to Cilla and Will in particular, and would love to read the next in the series.
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on 7 January 2012
Catching the Eagle is a fascinating read that transports you back in time to the border area of England so famed for its lawlessness. These are real family skeletons fleshed out and dressed to create a wonderful lively story that shows that truth can be far more fascinating and stranger than fiction. Karen Charlton breaths such life into the story you can sit down and read through it almost without stopping as she takes you through the twists and turns of the amazing events that surrounded the robbery. It's a true life mystery with a nice little twist at the end.
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on 19 July 2014
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Charlton brings to life a period of English history in the most vivid way. You are confronted with all the noise, smells and the sights of pre-industrial Britain, along with the stark realities of a brutal class based justice system and a non-existent welfare system. But along with the squalor of Gaols and Prison Hulks, Charlton effortlessly combines a magical description of the passage of life for families held together by bonds of loyalty and love, with images of the beautiful, bleak, and often harsh Northumbrian countryside. It is all in there, drinking, sex, fights, whores, thieves, romance, and lots and lots of slime, filth and animal waste. I recommend it heartily.
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on 17 June 2012
When Kirkley Hall is burgled in April 1809,suspicion falls on local 'rogue', Jamie Charlton. Cleverly using information acquired from investigating her husband's family tree, Karen Charlton blends the facts into a lively tale set in the Northumbrian countryside. Her Jamie is not always likeable and I wasn't too sorry to see him sentenced to transportation, but the depiction of poverty, squalor and oppression among the lower classes is well drawn.I particularly liked Inspector Lavender and his side-kick and was disappointed not to read more of them--but perhaps we'll meet again in the next book?
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on 29 October 2014
It’s 1809, it’s the bleak wilds of Northumberland, and while a beautiful bird of prey draws the eye and incites great interest within the community surrounding Kirkley Hall, a beady-eyed opportunist thief is also at large.

Whilst the author has delved into the past to unearth the truth about an ancestor, equally fictitious characters are cleverly woven in and around real-life persons who were but names within archived files. Thus, when a major robbery occurs in the borderlands, Inspector Lavender, of the Bow Street Runners, London, a seeming hard-nosed shrewd individual is soon delving into the private lives of parishioners, but doubt (for the reader) lingers throughout his investigation as to whether he has the true thief in his sights.

The author has paced the novel extremely well, all the while teasing the reader with characters’ individual perspectives on events as they unfold. Although Inspector Lavender discovers evidence of unbridled lust and sexual felony, dispossession and family rivalries, and indeed pays witness to the fact life in the borderlands is raw and as harsh as the weather, he never lets sentiment get in the way of bringing a man to justice. After all, his job is to apprehend the villain, and thence onward the courts of justice will decide the villain’s fate. But what if he’s got it wrong? That very question leaves the reader in a conundrum, but this is not entirely a fictitious novel, therefore the twist in the tale makes Catching the Eagle all the more poignant and brings the reality of life in 1809 very much to the fore. This novel is an excellent read, in which history comes alive with gritty realism.
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on 5 July 2014
What would you do if someone in your family was accused of a robbery, and you didn't know whether he'd done it or not? And if this took place in the 19th century, when the penalty was death by hanging? To me this is the central question in `Catching the Eagle' and we see the Charlton family, and indeed the whole rural community in the north of England, reacting different ways both personally, and in their court testimonies, when Jamie Charlton goes to trial for a robbery at `the big house' that he might, or might not have, committed.

Based on a true story, this is well-researched and the historical background rings true, without getting bogged down in facts. I found the prison and courtroom scenes particularly telling. I also thought the dialogue managed to convey the northern English accent well, dated enough to fit the period but not distractingly old-fashioned-yokel-ish.

The eagle of the title appears in the Charltons' story but is also a symbol that puts the fate of the accused robber, Jamie, into a wider perspective. This eagle's eye is exactly the viewpoint Charlton brings to her novel, never letting us close enough to the characters to truly identify with any of them. Not all readers will enjoy this distance but it enables the novel to have a scope and a sense of the period that worked for me. It also enables the reader to make her own mind up about the evidence given re the robbery, and never were such a motley crew of unreliable witnesses assembled in a trial. There is no doubting the truth of the research!
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on 4 July 2014
Catching the Eagle is another great novel from Karen Charlton which the Newcastle Journal and the Daily Mail have labeled A SUSPENSE-FILLED PAGE-TURNER and AN ENJOYABLE READ. It's not surprising she captures a large audience due to her larger-than-life characters and unique plots. It’s easy to become sucked in to the time by way of the visuals in the prologue alone. The dialogue is excellent, reminiscent of the seductive northern brogue, and there’s an air of menace from the beginning which makes it impossible to put the book down.

Aynsley, the rent collector, is obnoxious, the type of man we want to boo and hiss. But there’s something so entertaining about him, so deliciously disgusting we must read on to find out what he’s about. His son, however, doesn’t appear to be a chip off the old block and how he managed that, I’ll never know. The rent money is counted, re-counted and squirreled away in a money chest where not even the devil could find it. As we all settle down for the night, some devil was up and about, a shadow in the night.

Jamie Charlton has a hidden vice and can’t keep money in his pocket to save his life. He’s angry. He wants to see the back of Aynsley. Well, who wouldn’t with a boot print on the back of his britches. Thing is though, if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut, he could be in the slammer for a crime he didn’t commit. Or did he?

Five fat stars for another roller-coaster ride.
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